Sport Fishing - - GEAR GUIDE -

Rod guides and rod-guide in­serts are vi­tal com­po­nents of your fish­ing rods. Ma­jor up­grades over the past decade in­creased per­for­mance via bet­ter sen­si­tiv­ity, bet­ter heat dis­si­pa­tion and lighter ma­te­ri­als. Custom-rod builders are up-to-date with the lat­est trends, stay­ing knowl­edge­able when buy­ing new com­po­nents. But for the rest of us, we likely need a re­fresher. Not be­cause we plan on build­ing a bunch of rods next month, but be­cause we should un­der­stand the fea­tures, de­signs and parts of the rods we’re buy­ing.

Cur­rent rod-build­ing trends lean to­ward in­creas­ing guide-insert hard­ness to de­crease fric­tion for longer casts, and to­ward sav­ing weight by light­en­ing com­po­nents, says Chris Adams, mar­ket­ing and ac­counts man­ager with Mud Hole Custom Tackle in Oviedo, Florida.

“For an in­ex­pen­sive rod, a stain­less-steel guide frame with an alu­minum-ox­ide insert is com­mon,” says Adams. “Alu­minum ox­ide has been around for 30 years, and it’s still used just about ev­ery­where be­cause of [the low] cost.” This ce­ramic ring is fine for braided lines, but the gauge of ring is thick and its weight heavy.

For the best per­for­mance rel­a­tive to price, look to guides fea­tur­ing CRB Elite, Fuji al­conite or Amer­i­can Tackle Nano­lite ce­ramic ring op­tions, says Adams. Avail­able for off­shore rods, fly rods and ev­ery­thing in be­tween, these lightweight eyes can take a beat­ing just like alu­minum ox­ide.

“I’d con­sider these guides the best bang for your buck,” says Adams. “Not too ex­pen­sive, but still of­fer a sig­nif­i­cant per­for­mance ad­van­tage and are lighter than alu­minum ox­ide by frac­tions of grams.”

Typ­i­cally, the guide frames for both alu­minum ox­ide and other premium ce­ramic rings are built from stain­less steel, although cor­ro­sion-free ti­ta­nium is avail­able with more premium in­serts. Ti­ta­nium is lighter and more rigid than stain­less steel, mak­ing for a more sen­si­tive rod feel. For an­glers fish­ing in salt water, ti­ta­nium is im­per­vi­ous to cor­ro­sion.

“Stain­less steel is a softer metal that’s more for­giv­ing, al­low­ing an an­gler to bend the guide back in place as nec­es­sary,” says Adams. “If you treat your rod rough, ti­ta­nium guide frames will likely [break] quicker.”

Ti­ta­nium tip tops and guides of­ten come avail­able with in­serts made from sil­i­con car­bide (SiC) and Fuji Torzite. A SiC and/or Nano­lite insert is a thin­ner, lighter and harder ma­te­rial than al­conite or alu­minum ox­ide, used to bet­ter dis­si­pate line heat, pre­vent wear and line grooves in the insert, and in­crease the rod’s sen­si­tiv­ity.

Fuji’s Torzite might be the ul­ti­mate insert with the high­est price point. A Fuji K-se­ries dou­ble-foot spinning guide in ring size 10 is $20; a stain­less-steel al­conite ver­sion is just $4. Fuji says the ma­te­rial is smoother and tougher than SiC, with bet­ter frac­ture re­sis­tance, higher pol­ish and com­pa­ra­ble strength in a nar­rower ring that’s 30 per­cent lighter.

Com­pa­nies such as Amer­i­can Tackle, Fuji, Pa­cific Bay and rel­a­tive new­comer CRB pro­duce a full range of com­po­nents to suit style, per­for­mance and bud­get. A lit­tle re­search into guide frames and in­serts on your next rod pur­chase can go a long way in un­der­stand­ing how the com­po­nents will af­fect fish­ing per­for­mance and feel.


The old idea that in or­der to de­crease fric­tion in spinning rods a rod builder must in­crease insert size was proved false by in­no­va­tions in micro guides.

“You don’t want the line loop [com­ing off the spool] to hit the rod,”

points out Vic Cut­ter, vice pres­i­dent of sales at Pa­cific Bay In­ter­na­tional. “And you don’t want line to pile up be­fore ever en­ter­ing an ini­tial rod guide.”

Fuji’s New Guide Con­cept (NGC) set out to im­prove over­all rod per­for­mance by us­ing lighter, smaller guides and de­pressed ring in­serts, says Jim Is­ing, mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor for An­glers Re­source, the ex­clu­sive North Amer­i­can distrib­u­tor of Fuji rod com­po­nents.

The Fuji NGC sys­tem had ma­jor im­pacts on fish­ing by in­creas­ing cast­ing dis­tance and rod sen­si­tiv­ity, and re­duc­ing line twist, in part, by up­ping the num­ber of guides on a rod.

“The real cul­prit in rob­bing dis­tance is line slap­ping the rod on the cast,” says Is­ing. “More guides hold the line away from the blank. Be­cause ‘line chaos’ leav­ing the spool can be much bet­ter con­trolled closer to the blank, smaller rings im­prove line flow and re­sult in longer cast­ing dis­tance and in­creased ac­cu­racy from the an­gler.”

The NGC sys­tem even­tu­ally led to the Fuji KR Con­cept sys­tem, which rec­og­nized that guide height is the sin­gle most im­por­tant factor in a small-ring re­duc­tion guide sys­tem.


Smaller ring sizes in strip­per guides and re­duc­tion guides im­prove con­trol, cast­ing and sen­si­tiv­ity, says Is­ing.

“Mov­ing the line down and near the blank ear­lier ef­fec­tively moves the choke point closer to the reel to elim­i­nate the need for a fourth re­duc­tion guide, and in­stead re­quires an ad­di­tional run­ning guide,” he says. This process was named Rapid Choke by Fuji, and the com­pany cre­ated spe­cific KR Con­cept guides in KL-H, KB and KT se­ries for the sys­tem. Many K-se­ries guides en­hance the ef­fect of Rapid Choke with a 30-de­gree slope of the frame and ring.

Amer­i­can Tackle’s Mi­croWave linecon­trol rod-guide tech­nol­ogy fur­ther ad­vanced the the­ory laid out with the new con­cept sys­tem by in­cor­po­rat­ing the prin­ci­ple of rapid re­duc­tion into a sin­gu­lar guide.

“With the old cone-of-flight de­sign, an­glers lost so much en­ergy in the loops that went out the guides,” says Adams. “Plus, there was more po­ten­tial for line twists to ac­ci­den­tally wrap around the larger guides.”

The Mi­croWave guide sys­tem rapidly re­duces the cone of flight by im­me­di­ately bring­ing the line closer to the rod blank and re­mov­ing line he­lixes via a unique strip­per guide. On a 7-foot spinning rod, the strip­per guide leads to a tran­si­tion guide and then seven run­ning guides, with the pur­pose of bet­ter ac­cu­racy and en­ergy trans­fer of the line.

But there is a point when micro guides can get too small and have no ad­di­tional ben­e­fits. For many fish­ing ap­pli­ca­tions, knots must be able to pass through the guide in­serts.

“Fuji’s small­est guide rec­om­men­da­tion for any rod is a size 4, with sizes 5 and 5.5 rec­om­mended for heav­ier rods and salt­wa­ter ap­pli­ca­tions,” says Is­ing.


Two ma­jor trends in off­shore roller guides come from op­po­site ends of the tackle spec­trum.

For many years, big-game off­shore an­glers asked for guides with su­per­huge knot clear­ance and a frame built from bil­let alu­minum. AFTCO re­cently in­tro­duced a new set of guides that fills those re­quire­ments called Su­per Ex­tra Heavy Duty (SXHD) guides and match­ing tops.

“The SXHD guides and tips have .41-inch knot clear­ance, which is by far the most clear­ance I’ve seen in a roller guide,” says Greg Stotes­bury, AFTCO’s tackle sales man­ager. “This guide’s clear­ance al­lows for su­per-heavy wind-on con­nec­tions, green-stick rig­ging op­tions and 330-pound Spro swivels to be wound right through the guides and onto the reel.”

The ex­tra clear­ance was spurred by 130-pound-tackle an­glers us­ing new styles and rigs to tar­get species such as gi­ant bluefin tuna. “This fish­ery has de­vel­oped a pref­er­ence for com­plete wind­ing of lead­ers, crimps and swivels onto the reel with­out the need to grab the leader and hand-wire the fish to the boat,” says Stotes­bury.

On the op­po­site end of the rol­ler­guide spec­trum, AFTCO pro­duces lightweight (LW) roller guides de­signed to fish monofil­a­ment lines up to 30-pound-test or braided lines up to 65-pound-test.

“Our ti­ta­nium roller and graphite­framed rollers are per­fectly suited to fish­ing all kinds of braid and light mono line,” says Stotes­bury. “They re­quire zero main­te­nance and per­form per­fectly with all braided lines due to the lack of run­ning fric­tion.”

The LW rollers and tips are pop­u­lar for king mack­erel, smaller tuna, bill­fish and dol­phin.

“Rod blanks are get­ting smaller and higher-mod­u­lus all the time,” says Stotes­bury. “The LW rollers have feet that are de­signed to fit small-di­am­e­ter blanks used to catch mas­sive fish on su­per braids.”

CAST FAR­THER: Taller guides with small, hard in­serts pre­vent line slap and draw the main line quickly to the rod blank for longer casts.

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